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Introducing UU World Digital

Gratitude, paying attention, and multiculturalism

Questions for spiritual reflection and adult group discussions.
By Jane Greer
Fall 2009

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Pastoral or prophetic? Michael Durall urges congregations to focus more on public service than on personal spirituality. “Our primary concern,” he writes, “should lie. . . . away from the private sphere and toward becoming a public church, one that reaches out to create a more just and humane world.” (“Reach Out to Become a ‘Public’ Church,”page 15)

What role should public and private spirituality play in congregational life?

Practicing gratitude. Christine Robinson and Alicia Hawkins discuss the importance of practicing gratitude. “A musician practices scales for many lonely hours so that when it comes time to perform the music will flow naturally from the fingers. Likewise, we can make a practice of our gratitude that will sustain us in the the wonderful and difficult times of our lives.” (“Practice Gratitude,” page 19)

What are you grateful for?

Conversion. Bernadette Sigel writes about an encounter with a Unitarian woman in 1945 that so affected her that she later became a Unitarian herself. (“A Spark of Understanding,” page 22)

If you were not born UU, how did you choose to become one? What is your conversion story? If you grew up UU, how have you introduced your Unitarian Universalism to others?

Diversity. Kimberly French describes the transformation that is taking place at All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, which has welcomed former Pentecostal Bishop Carlton Pearson, who lost his megachurch when he embraced Universalism, and many of his followers. One of the morning services now includes “praise music” and upraised hands, which has brought back traumatic memories for some UUs who fled the churches of their youth. “I came to All Souls to get away from all that,” they’ve said, but others have joined the church because the new music speaks to them. (“The Gospel of Inclusion,” page 26)

When people share the same theology and values, but prefer different styles of music and worship, what can a congregation do to meet everyone’s needs? What could your congregation do?

God talk. The Rev. Marlin Lavanhar, senior minister at All Souls, acknowledges that his church was using a lot of “God language” in its services and that it was using Biblical stories as monthly themes before Pearson’s New Dimensions congregation joined them.

New Dimensions introduced other forms of “God talk” to All Souls. How might your congregation respond to such a change?

Paying attention. In “Be Present,” Mary Pipher describes different kinds of time, distinguishing chronological time from the transcendent time she calls “moments.” In these moments we are fully present to our own experiences, which can range from the experience of childbirth to seeing a beautiful sunset. The number of “moments” during a lifetime make us truly rich or poor. (page 33)

What are some of the “moments” in your life? Do you consider yourself rich or poor?

Focusing. Pipher describes some techniques that she uses to make herself pay attention: looking into the faces of people she meets while running errands, breathing deeply at stop signs, and challenging a friend to a “happiness contest.” (page 34)

What techniques do you use to make yourself pay attention?

Multiculturalism. Newly elected UUA President Peter Morales told UU World just after his election at the General Assembly in June, “The breadth of our message is very appealing, but we need to become more culturally diverse in our forms of expression in order to reach the millions of people who share our theology and values.” (“A Multicultural Future,” page 38)

Do you know people who share your UU beliefs and values, but who may not feel welcome in your congregation? Can you imagine things your congregation might do that would help them feel at home?

Merger doubts. Kimberly French describes the reservations that some Unitarians and some Universalists had when their denominations voted to unite in 1959. (“Fifty Years After the Vote to Form the UUA,” page 64)

What have been the advantages and disadvantages of the merger?

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